Saturday, March 15, 2014


Students Close Encounter of the Other-Worldly Kind Makes Her a Believer

David Burton
October 1987, Drury Mirror

In my quest for an answer to whether or not the ghost of Clara Thompson is fact or fiction, one source was continually suggested to me as the most authoritative student source--Robin Holmes Fowlkes.

"I used to be skeptical about ghosts also," said Robin. "I wasn't skeptical though after the first time I experienced the presence of this ghost--it was so good and warm."

Robin Holmes, a 1986 graduate of Drury College and a very talented musician, currently lives in Fort Worth, Kansas, and is married to Bruce Fowlkes, also a Drury graduate.

For Robin, her ghostly experiences are not a joke.

"I feel very strongly about it," said Robin. "I was shocked when it first happened. I was also really excited. I didn't believe it at first, but now it is a very special period of events in my life."

Robin says she is unable to remember the exact time she first experienced the ghost because she didn't think of most things as ghostly episodes.

"I always had to practice after 10:30 because it was about the only time I had left," said Robin. "I can tell you, there were lots of times when I heard doorknobs turning and rustling sounds, like hands rubbing on jeans, after the building had been locked up."

Still, Robin says she realizes some of the things she heard could have been because Clara Thompson is such a big and old building--but not all of the sounds can be explained in this fashion.

"I do recall one of the first experiences that I recognized as a legitimate experience with a ghost," added Robin before she related the story.

One weekday, after midnight, Robin was practicing on the stage of Clara Thompson.

"Security came in and told me to get out," said Robin, "but I begged to be able to stay and practice. The stage lights were the only lights left on. The security guard said that it would be all right but to remember that I was the only one left in the building. He was locking me, and only me, in the building."

After security left, Robin continued with her practicing. Two pianos were on the stage at the time. The Stienway, on which Robin was practicing, was setting behind the partition on stage.

"I was practicing, and then between playing, I heard a noise in the balcony," said Robin. "It sounded like a doorknob turning. The lights were out, except on stage."

According to Robin, she looked out into the auditorium from around the partition and saw nothing, only black.

"I heard footsteps though. Not clomping steps but more like a rustling or shuffling. I followed the steps from one end of the balcony to the other as the rustling continued. I strained my eyes to see someone but I couldn't. There was no one there. Then there was a big rustling, almost a sigh, and the ghost sat down. I knew what I heard. I have no doubts. It was a ghost."

But this story doesn't end there.

"I was really scared after listening to this, especially since security said I was alone," Robin said. "Then a feeling, a warm feeling like a gust of wind, hit me. It wasn't a breeze, it didn't blow my hair or anything, it was just a warm--almost chilling--breeze. Then I wasn't scared anymore. It took care of my fears even though I KNEW someone was watching."

Robin said she continued to practice and the whole time felt as if she was making someone very happy. Then, Robin was touched.

"After playing for a while, something came up from behind me and expressed its appreciation for my music by hugging me," continued Robin. "It felt warm, but it was also scary because it felt as if someone was hugging me. It felt like an old man or an old couple who were very attached to the building."

The only time Robin said she was really scared was when she said "Hello" into the audience after she heard the rustling.

"I only did that once," said Robin. "It really scared me."

The entire time, however, Robin felt certain that the ghost was very benevolent.

"I think the ghost is someone who really loves music and loves that building," said Robin. "I never felt like I was in danger. I always thought that maybe I was making this ghost very happy with my music."

Possibly most significant is the fact that these same events happened to Robin 9 or 10 times.

"It was the sweetest, warmest feeling. It always gave me goosebumps," said Robin. "It was all very exciting. I have never felt anything like it since. It is really a special time for me."

However, the two events that made Robin really believe in the ghost of Clara Thompson were things that happened to other people.

On one occasion, Robin attended a Count Basey concert at a Springfield High School with her friend Randy Luna. Before Count Basey performed, a female singer named Carman Bradford opened for him.

During the performance of Count Basey, Bradford walked in the back doors of the auditorium. Robin and Randy saw her and decided to go speak with her about the performance.

"I wanted to tell her how talented she was," said Robin. "During our conversation though, she discovered that I was also a singer. For some reason she decided that she really wanted to hear me sing."

So, after the concert, Robin, Randy, and Ms. Bradford looked for a piano in the high school. They were unable to locate one in the building, however.

"Carmon then suggested that maybe we could come back to Drury," said Holmes. "I told her how beautiful Clara Thompson sounded at night, and she got it in her head that she really wanted to hear me."

Robin also added that Bradford was happy to be away from the 18 men she was traveling with in the Basey tour.

"She was wanting some girl-talk," said Robin.

These three performers went to Clara Thompson and Robin and Bradford both sang while Randy played the piano. Nothing unusual happened until Carmon Bradford felt something very unusual.

"Just out of nowhere she said, `Oh, my! Did you feel that? It was like a warm draft, a rush of warm air. I've got goose-bumps.' I knew it was the ghost," said Robin. "I hadn't felt a thing but she had. I never mentioned it to her, but I know it was the ghost touching her."

The second event that made Robin even more confident about what she had experienced came during an afternoon piano lesson with Dr. Sidney Vice.

"During practice, just out of the clear blue sky, Dr. Vice said, `I know this may sound strange, but after practicing late at night, do you ever think there is a ghost in here?'

"Well, my chin almost hit the floor," said Robin. "I had never mentioned my experiences to anyone before, and now, here was the head of the department asking me about a ghost. I knew then that there was definitely something to this."

Robin also discovered that this ghost has some special quirks.

"When I would come back from breaks, I wouldn't experience him again right away," said Robin. "I had to be practicing in Clara Thompson for a while, and it always happened when I was on stage."

Then, as expected, Robin would again experience the rustling, the sitting down, and a warm feeling.

"Every time I would hear that rustling I would get scared, but it wouldn't be much longer before I felt the warm rush or the hug," said Robin. "I really feel like I was fulfilling a dream of someone."

One other curious event happened with Robin and Steve Siebert. They had been waiting for a chance to record a song together; so, late one night they went over the Clara Thompson, taking with them Robin's "jam-box." Robin placed the recorder out in the chairs and taped their performance.

"When I played back the tape there was a tapping on the recording in time to the music. This was something neither of us heard while we were recording," said Robin. "My recorder had never done that before and hasn't since. The taps began with the music and then just sort of fade out towards the end of the song. The tapping was very clear, as if someone was tapping a pencil on the chair in front of them as they sat right next to the recorder."

One significant personal side note here. Steve Siebert also related to me exactly the same story.

According to Robin, she began to look forward to these types of experiences.

"I loved that rushing feeling and started looking forward to it," said Robin. "On three or four occasions I just stood alone in the middle of the stage and sang. Each time I could hear the rustling sound walk across the balcony and sit down."

It is important to remember that each time, Robin says that she knew that she was the only person in the building.

"Every time, security would tell me they were locking me in," said Robin.

Each time, it was the same thing.

"It happened so much that I felt like they really knew me," said Robin. "It happened repeatedly, and I could also tell the difference between just odd sounds, and the sounds of the ghost."

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